The subject of Millinery and Milliners/Hatmakers and the like are always a subject that are very close to my heart and I want to delve deeper into the world of Art meets Hat.
When heading to Kangan Institute for Millinery Cocktail evening, there is no denying the growth of the students where you can see Certificate 2, (introduction), then moving deeper into the growth of flat pattern and dimensions of construction of hats in Certificate 3 finally to have a result in Certificate 4 that you have learnt the trade and ready to make your mark on the Millinery world.
It has been my pleasure to meet Milliners, Hatmakers and Artists all at different stages of their career and life and hear their stories about how they started, why they started and really get to know them and understand their work and stories. This gets translated into the art that we see on the head. As Fashions on the Field warms up, Spring is sprouting in Melbourne and Milliners fingers are bleeding with demand of public wanting hats, I ask myself should we be turning to the artists or the trades? Some hats are so beautifully structured finished off and I am so lucky to have mentors who have taught me correct balance, stitching and tricks of the trade that I am ridiculous about how Petersham is stitched to the hat, although on the other side we have untrained people who are simply coming up into an art form that have not been formally trained yet have a great eye for what the market demand is.
So many people right now are trying to sell you hats in so many directions and I feel as I just love what I am doing and not trying to sell you anything but to be happy in your own skin, where do we go to find the perfect hat for Spring Racing Carnival?
There are always names that are synonymous with Spring Racing Carnival such as Richard Nylon, Phillip Rhodes, Kim Fletcher, Jane Stoddart, Neil Grigg just to name a few, these are the career Milliners that have seen times of hats come and go and right now the Hat is the accessory du jour. I can easily advise for ladies and gentlemen to contact these people and have what they want made and not be ripped off. I have also taken out an invitation only to my site where I will only be having Milliners that I believe can deliver on their promise as there are over 2000 working Milliners in Australia alone. I am very lucky that I have been welcomed Internationally by so many amazing Milliners with thanks to Noel Stewart, Piers Atkinson, Philip Treacy, Jane Taylor and my secret boyfriend Stephen Jones. This has given me so much insight into the trade and making of hats and headwear and the perspective of hats in another country where they are pursuing a market for Weddings, Christenings and in general more than just a hat for racing where you see more staunch in tradition yet constant innovation of materials and bringing the Hat forward to a new benchmark. In United Kingdom I felt the Milliners had no sense of competition with each other and felt that everyone had a role to play.
Above Minions Headwear by Piers Atkinson
In Australia it is a fiercely competitive market where I have known 'a milliner to take another hat of someone’s head to hat a lady with their hat to steal a sale.
Is this art or promotion and marketing? At what point would you do this for a sale? What I loved about London and the team at London Hat Week is there was little ego and an honest friendship of who had worked in what studio and a sense that Hatmaking and Millinery is still very much a trade rather than a hobby making money earner.
Where do we draw a line and do we have to?
I am going to reference two dear friends of mine who I adore equally but world apart in Millinery. Paris Kyne (RIP) who would take me aside and teach me the ridiculous OCD world of stitching curling and tiny techniques that I had no idea I was learning. He just believed I gave so much to the world of the Hat that he would mentor me to become better at what I did. Paris Kyne was very old school and particularly snobby in his Hatmaking and Millinery where he was quite frankly so blunt with his students that you could construe as rude, his eye for detail and forever the quest for perfection made every hat a masterpiece. In saying that, I did not love all his hats, even though he was a master and the hats were flawlessly made.
On the other hand, I will reference the wonderful Richard Nylon who there is no denying his artistic genius but never had the opportunity to travel to locations to source fabric and be mentored by amazing tutors. Richard Nylon is a self taught Milliner. When looking at the work of Richard Nylon, you cannot help but want to try his pieces on and feel fantastic. Some are not for the faint hearted, because they are hats that will have you noticed. Richard Nylon's philosophy is that the Glue Gun was not available to 'Granny Milliner' that decades ago had to make everything work with stitching and in reality you are going to pay less for the hat that is glue gunned as opposed to the hand stitching. Both Paris Kyne and Richard Nylon are very well respected talented Hatmakers/Milliners, but in the world of the 'making of the hat' are worlds apart.
Above, Mohawk by Paris Kyne
Above, Game of Thrones, Richard Nylon made for Jason Grech Melbourne Designer
I find in this instance these are two incredibly talented people who love the art of Hatmaking/Millinery, one traditional and the other the ease of the future. I don't feel it would be right to compare the traditional with the futuristic. I think it is fair to say that I really want people to be educated this season when purchasing Hats and Millinery. I think that you have to know what you are paying for. When you look at the Jane Taylor, Stephen Jones, Philip Treacy hats, you are purchasing an era of history, in the for of art as a hat. I expect to pay good money for these hats as they are accommodating staff, shops, and are beyond the average Milliner that is seasonal. Basically if I like something I will wear it, but I have to know what I am representing and conveying to the public. The gorgeous Piers Atkinson, one of my favourite POP Milliners has never claimed to be a Hatmaker/Milliner, as he jests that his mother was a Milliner and because he was seen out with individual pieces on his head at night, the work Milliner stuck to his name.
What I am trying to surmise is that pick for your personality what you are wanting to say to the world this Spring Racing Carnival. The class and elegance that comes with an impeccably made hat will have you noted by people like myself and people of like mind that know the craft and fashion industry although may look stuffy and boring to the young. You can make bold statements in your Headwear where you have to from start to finish play the Hat from the moment you are seen until you take it off at home. For some, this can be hard work as you must be courteous and expect that not everyone is going to like your taste, for some it is just allot of fun and you will get comments that it looks silly. (But really who cares)
There are differences in blocking, a very traditional technique and really the basics of Millinery. Personally I love to block as it take me to a happy place where some hat it, but that is the gift that we are all different. Many Milliners will block each piece, some will opt for a more decorative finish, where the base (blocked button) is pre blocked in buntal. This gives the base of the hat. If you are purchasing a hat that is pre blocked in this style, note that your hat should come down in price as the hand made effort is less that its neighbour.
Above Pre Blocked Bases ready for trimming by House of Adorne. Check them out for great Millinery supplies.
Above, hand blocking of felt. You can find more unique shapes and very time consuming to complete.
This year, 'The Brim is Back'.
Thank goodness, and this is really going to show the hobby Milliner from the Trade Milliner. The Brimmed hat costs more in fabric, and time in blocking, and you cannot mass produce these easily. It takes time and to have an outstanding brimmed hat takes patience and skill. It comes down to weave of the medium, the way it is stretched, where lines come into play so there is no hiding mistakes. The percher is long gone and was a quick trend for Milliners as they are relatively easy to block and make many of. The percher to me is not a longevity hat, it is a fashion hat that will come and go like the satellite. Don't spend too much here.
Here are some examples of Brims, that you can really do what you want. From the demure to the fabulous.
Over the next month I will be delving deeper into the Millinery so if you are thinking about what you are going to wear, stay tuned. I do not believe in purchasing off Facebook, to me it is a cheaper option and you don't want to pay too much. Nothing ever over $300 as there is no upkeep of shop front and timeless elegance that only a shop and a knowledgeable shop attend will know.
The Essential Hat in Melbourne is second to none when it comes to Hat Shops in Melbourne and of course my good friend Dale Olsson from The Hat Box in Brisbane, Brisbane Arcade has a wealth of information on the subject of Fashions on the Field.
Search the internet and try on hats, know what suits you and see yourself head to toe. Never assume something, get on the phone and ring the Milliner. They are wanting to hear from you and wanting to make you happy.
Racing Fashion 2015 is about bringing fun and fashion together. There are no limits this year although we will be bringing out our Fashion 2015 which will give you great outlines for what the season will bring. Basically, do your research on hats. You don't have to stick to one Milliner, they should not be precious and you want to be more than a walking label. This is the year to try new things and don't be scared of the Brim. You may feel swamped in a Brim, but again there are many options around this trend. Example Lace brim.
The biggest thing to remember is this should be fun. Racing Fashion is about feeling good and embracing how wonderful it is to live in a fabulous country where we have the ability to frock up and enjoy. The moment you feel that this is a job, a competition or affects your daily living, you may have to reassess your inner being of why you are doing this.
Take down the walls that there is a competition called Fashions on the Field and take it in its stride. It is about fun and fashion, not about saving lives or a pageant, just Australian Fun with a tradition of over 50 years.